Tell Congress the Fourth Amendment is Not For Sale

Today, Senator Ron Wyden introduced the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act—a bill that would close a current backdoor to the fourth amendment. The fourth amendment protects you against warrantless search and seizure, but with current practices, federal agencies and law enforcement are able to buy your data directly from shady data brokers without your knowledge or a warrant. This practice is currently 100% legal. With Wyden’s bill we can close this loophole— the government should not be able to buy their way around your civil liberties.

Data brokers mine data from your phone and online presence, often via apps you use, and sell that information off to the highest bidder. As is often the case, these constitutionally questionable practices tend to target marginalized populations first—with agencies like ICE and CBP using location data from apps to target undocumented immigrants. In a horrifying example of how surveillance is often aimed at historically-marginalized groups, apps marketed towards Muslims have been known to collaborate with federal agencies—selling location data mined by Predicio to federal agencies like ICE and CBP.

This bill would also effectively stop agencies from purchasing data from the controversial law enforcement contractor Clearview AI. Clearview AI has been known to scrape data from social media for its facial recognition databases, and then pass that information on to law enforcement (for a price, obviously)—again, all without law enforcement ever needing a warrant.

While agencies like ICE and DHS will say that this practice is perfectly legal and not a violation of the fourth amendment, they are still collecting American’s private information without a warrant—something which the fourth amendment specifically protects against. Just because an agency is going through a private company does not mean those fourth amendment protections do not apply.

Wyden’s bill would require law enforcement agencies procure a warrant before purchasing data from data brokers, much the same way they’re required to procure a warrant before conducting physical searches or accessing your email. Congress has often been slow to respond to our ever-evolving digital landscape, but it’s time for a change.

Sign our petition urging congress to support The 4th Amendment is Not For Sale Act: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/tell-congress-pass-the-4th-amendment-is-not-for-sale-act.

Our Platform To Reduce Police Violence

The United States is in the middle of a pandemic of racist police violence that shows no sign of abating. For many police officers, expressing verbal opposition to a police killing, police tactic or police budget, is itself an act of unreasoning aggression no sane person could endorse. So it’s at protests against police violence that you see the most police violence; it’s the very expression of the idea that police should submit themselves to the rule of law, that arouses their lawless fury.

For decades, elected officials from both major parties have treated police and the military like a special class. Congressmembers, councilors, mayors and legislators have approved their budgets and acquisitions without question. Till this year, it has been almost politically unimaginable to treat their requests with the same skepticism afforded to other funding requests. Courts, too, have enshrined enormous deference to police and the military into law, through abusive concepts like “qualified immunity.” Drastic change is necessary to change the culture, not only of the police, but of our political system as a whole.

A restored Fourth Amendment requires that people, their communications and their effects be searched or seized only subject to probable cause of involvement in an actual crime. The actual practice of both police and federal agencies is to over-surveil, over-criminalize, over-seize and over-detain, and the law improperly allows them to escape accountability for these violations.

The Restore The Fourth board hereby endorses the following seven specific measures to reduce police violence:

  1. At the federal level, pass the tri-partisan Ending Qualified Immunity Act, so that people can once more sue the police for violating their rights. At the state level, implement changes like that recently approved in Colorado.
  2. Abolish federal civil asset forfeitures, which enable police to steal people’s cash, vehicles, and even homes with impunity, through passing the FAIR Act. At the state level, pass bills similar to the model legislation from the Institute for Justice.
  3. End no-knock warrants, which are a vector for police violence, at the federal level through passing the Justice for Breonna Taylor Act, and at the state and local level through prohibitions such as that passed in Louisville, KY.
  4. Reduce jail churn by reducing arrests: Police should refrain from arrests for misdemeanor quality-of-life crimes, “resisting arrest”, protest-related trespassing, and crimes associated with being homeless. Rather than setting cash bail, judges should implement pretrial detention only where there has been a finding of dangerousness after a hearing.
  5. Abolish DHS, making its constituent agencies independent again; it was a bad idea from the get-go. Among its constituent agencies, abolish ICE, and revert to a unitary agency for both documented and undocumented immigrants.
  6. Pass surveillance oversight ordinances and facial recognition bans at the local, county and state levels, to restrain the police from deploying surveillance without review and consent by local elected officials.
  7. In relation to coronavirus pandemic enforcement, we believe that governments should involve the police only secondarily and as a last resort, such as if someone assaults or murders a member of the public or public health worker trying to enforce a coronavirus-related restriction, or for education and handing out masks. Drones and robots should not be used for enforcement, and contact tracing apps should be used only under tight constraints.

We thank the volunteers of Restore The Fourth, Critical Resistance, the Cato Institute, and the protesters, activists and scholars engaged with Black Lives Matter, for inspiring us to identify and support these measures. If you’d like to help make this platform a reality, contact Restore The Fourth here.